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QR Codes: Mobile Money

By Trina Boice

Most of us are used to cutting coupons to make our money stretch a little bit farther, but now we can use our cell phones in addition to our scissors! Yep, there’s an app for that! A couple of weeks ago, I got a free bag of popcorn at my local theater just for showing a special QR code at the concession stand. Don’t you just love technology? I’ll tell you more about QR codes in a minute.

“Smartphone use is on the rise, and more consumers are expecting instant access to everyday shopping needs,” said Cailyn Aanonson, spokeswoman for www.CouponSherpa.com. She continues, “It only makes sense as it’s instant, accessible and doesn’t require printing out a coupon from home beforehand – thus, you can decide what coupons to use as you shop rather than before you leave home.” Coupon Sherpa is a terrific online couponing website that now lets shoppers load grocery coupons to their existing store loyalty card via their iPhone devices. The coupons and the app are free.

Consumers can input their ZIP code using the app to see what offers are available locally. Then shoppers can select the coupons, which are automatically added to their grocery store loyalty card, to use during checkout. More and more retailers, restaurants and grocery stores are using mobile money to draw in customers.

“Aside from already offering scannable and exclusive coupons for restaurants and retailers, the Coupon Sherpa app has now expanded into offering grocery coupons,” Ms. Aanonson said. Consumers can also email coupons to friends and family and create their own “favorites” list of stores.

Using mobile phone coupons is especially helpful during the busy Christmas season when we don’t always have the time to plan ahead and hunt for coupons before we leave the house. While you’re out and about, you might see QR codes posted that advertise a special you can use right there in the store or restaurant. You’ll need a Smart Phone that has a QR reader. But what is a QR code, you ask? You’ve probably seen them around but may not have known what they are. They’re kind of the new version of the old bar code. They’re little squares that have strange black and white designs inside that include a lot more information on a retailer or product than could be fit on those old bar codes. With the right cell phone program, you’ll be able to download all of that data right to your phone.

You can download QR code readers to your desktop or cell phone by finding them at any of these websites:

You can also create your own QR code at:
Another terrific cell phone coupon site to check out is www.mobilecoupon.com. Merchants add their deals to the site, and shoppers simply load the geo-targeted coupons on their phones. Apps are available for free on the iPhone App Store.

Customers who love shopping at Target will be happy to learn that they can get exclusive offers up to five times a month on their web-enabled cell phone, via text message, when they sign up for the program at www.target.com Purchase with your Target credit card to save an additional five percent!

If you’ve discovered www.FourSquare.com, then you know that you can become a “Mayor” of a particular restaurant or retailer and receive their special offers simply by checking into their location on your cell phone every time you shop there. You can also earn silly badges and see where your friends are hanging out. It’s worth checking out if you’re a frequent customer of a certain vendor.

Another fun site to use on your mobile phone while you’re out painting the town is www.wereward.com Retailers and restaurants reward you when you accomplish certain tasks, such as taking a picture of yourself and uploading it to their Facebook or Google Places page. Sign up online to see which places near you are offering deals.

Remember, all of these mobile money programs remind consumers that “message and data rates may apply,” so be sure you know what your mobile plan includes or charges to receive such messages. Mobile marketing is HUGE these days and getting bigger as merchants are learning more about it. They know that while most people spend a certain number of hours sitting in front of their computers and email, a much larger portion of those people have their cell phones with them day and night! That’s smart shopping!

Trina Boice

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